Bad behavior puts stop to swap shop

Gray Recycling and Solid Waste Director Randy Cookson discusses the town's swap shop, which is located at the recycling center. 

GRAY — Bad “Black Friday” behavior at the town’s swap shop has resulted in a temporary closure of the facility at the Gray Transfer Station and Recycling Center.

Also known as the “Take It or Leave It Center,” the swap shop has been a place for Gray residents to discard certain items so that other members of the community can re-use them.

But town officials say a lack of concrete swap shop policy has led to problems, including arguments over items and people leaving some things that aren’t really “swapable,” as described on the town website. As a result, the shop has been closed for the time being.

“Unfortunately, the behavior gets similar to a Black Friday,” Town Manager Deborah Cabana said in an interview.

Town Councilor Sandy Carder, who serves as the council liaison to the town’s Recycling Committee, said at the Oct. 3 council meeting that “there were some issues with people not paying attention to the rules, and dumping items that were prohibited.”

“And other issues that will be looked into further,” Carder said.

Some of those other issues have arisen because of “childish behavior” by some people using the shop, which has been operating for about seven or eight years, Cabana said.

“We decided that we would just step back and try to develop a policy on who can use the swap shop,” Cabana explained, noting that no firm swap shop policy exists today.

Carder said that the shop is a “great idea” that helps “keep items that can be re-purposed out of the trash” and she hopes that the town can re-open it soon.

Signs at the swap shop, which note that it is staffed by unpaid volunteers and ask people to “please be respectful,” also provide a list of items that are not accepted at the shop. Listed are broken, torn or otherwise unusable items, encyclopedias and text books, televisions and computer monitors, paints and other liquid wastes, mattresses and stuffed furniture, large and/or heavy items and child car seats.” The signs note the list is “not intended to be all inclusive.”

Recycling and Solid Waste Director Randy Cookson, who agrees with the temporary closure, said there has been a longstanding pattern of unfortunate behavior at the swap shop.

“I could compare it to Macy’s on the day after Thanksgiving,” he said, echoing Cabana’s Black Friday comparison.

Carder said she’s heard about people from out of town coming to pick things up at the swap shop.

“I can see where some people might be upset about that,” she said, noting that Gray residents are supposed to be the only people using the transfer station.

Both Carder and Cabana pointed out that the shop has been staffed by volunteers, and Cabana said that “it’s probably not fair” to them to continue without having specific policies and guidelines.

“The first thing is to see whether the recycling committee would like to help us come up with a solution,” Cabana said.

Carder said Tuesday that the recycling committee would take up the issue at its Thursday night meeting, which was slated to take place after the Lakes Region Weekly print deadline.

“Our goal is to develop an official policy for the swap shop,” Carder said. “We don’t want it to drag out.”

Though Cabana and Cookson took the action to close the swap shop, Cabana hopes that the council will be involved in any policy developed before it is reopened.

“I think it would be good to have the council provide some guidance,” Cabana said.

Cookson serves as a non-voting member of the Recycling Committee and hopes that the committee can come up with a solution so that swap shop can be re-opened soon.

“It’s an integral part of this facility,” he said at the Recycling Center on Wednesday. “I hope that we can forward something on from there to Deb and/or the council and get it back in operation.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Gray Recycling and Solid Waste Director Randy Cookson discusses the town’s swap shop, which is located at the recycling center.

Yellow tape prevents customers from entering the “swap shop” at the Gray Recycling Center, which has been temporarily closed pending the development of use policies.